November 1, 2011
New and notable books on architecture, urbanism, and interior design.
Brilliant: White in Design
WRITTEN BY Linda O’Keeffe
DESIGNED BY Claudia Brandenburg, Language Arts
THE MONACELLI PRESS, 224 pp., $50
The color white’s “range of moods is enormous,” O’Keeffe writes in the introduction to Brilliant. And in more than 250 photos, divided into eight sections, she illustrates this vast spectrum of looks and effects, from calming to cerebral, sterile to sensual. O’Keeffe was the creative director of Metropolitan Home for 16 years, and many of the projects shown here look like they belong in that magazine; there is a preponderance of high-end residential interiors with plush white sofas, vast white bedspreads, and some truly heavenly looking bathrooms. A quote from the interior designer Ann Holden stands out: “I’ve never seen a piece of upholstery that didn’t look better in white.”
Edward Durell Stone:
A Son’s Untold Story of a Legendary Architect
WRITTEN BY Hicks Stone
DESIGNED BY Hahn Smith Design
Rizzoli, 334 pp., $85
This intimate biography of one of the most controversial figures of the modern movement was written by the architect’s youngest son. Edward Durrell Stone designed a number of important buildings: the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, the Huntington Hartford Museum (aka the “lollipop” building at 2 Columbus Circle, in New York). Celebrated in the mainstream press—even gracing the cover of Time in 1958—Stone was later scorned by the architectural community. Not only does the author do a fine job of detailing his father’s achievements, many of which have been largely forgotten today, he writes honestly about the architect’s career, relationships, and struggles.
High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky
WRITTEN BY Joshua David and Robert Hammond
DESIGNED BY Pentagram
FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, 339 pp., $30
The cofounders of Friends of the High Line—the group responsible for transforming an abandoned railroad trestle into a glorious park—have teamed up to tell their fascinating story. Against all odds, they helped save the railroad overpass, organized design competitions, raised millions of dollars, and lobbied reluctant politicians. This generously illustrated book is told oral-history style, with David’s and Hammond’s voices alternating throughout. David has done a wonderful job compressing hours of interviews into a sleek narrative. One quibble: the authors recruited an army of talented New Yorkers, who helped make their crazy dream a reality. It would have been great to hear from them, too.
Rethinking Design and Interiors: Human Beings in the Built
WRITTEN BY Shashi Caan
DESIGNED BY Laura Tabet
LAURENCE KING PUBLISHING, 200 pp., $30
The author provides both an education, tracing the history of interiors from cave people to the Bauhaus to the present day, and a polemic. An architect and interior designer, Caan distills the most basic function of the interior—providing security and comfort—and then goes on to show how the interior design profession became distracted and diluted over time. The field, she argues, is currently sandwiched between architecture, which is often guilty of overlooking the human dimension, and decoration, which is insufficiently rigorous. Her thought-provoking book ultimately offers up a third way, calling for a redefinition of interior design and a return to its original focus: human beings.